Operation story: 9-2

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Victorian Guard A icon.png
Adjutant Hill
Victorian Guard A icon.png
Victorian Soldier
Feeble Youth
Victoria Square
Hillock Interrogation Room

Before operation

Bagpipe and Horn go to the interrogation room at the appointed time, but come up empty. The barracks have kept them out of the loop, and executed the suspect without trial.
<Background 1>
[The Sankta Outcast, a Rhodes Island elite guard, walks around the streets of County Hillock, Victoria.]
Outcast County Hillock...
A medium-sized nomadic city, a modest distance out from Londinium. Main pillars are agriculture and light industry, not on closest terms with the surrounding counties...
Full match to what the intel describes.
[Outcast's phone rings. She picks it up and Blaze responses through the phone.]
Blaze Outcast, you there yet?
Outcast Just made it a minute ago. Did you slap a tracking device on me?
Blaze I've called you like fifteen times since last night!
Outcast I took the wasteland route. As if I'd have signal.
Blaze *Sigh*. Okay. Let me get this out there, I'm not the one in a rush. Misery's pushing it.
You know how he is, the worrywart. Not my fault he can't chill out. He's all wound up, even out on a mission, it's like, is he looking to sprout some more wrinkles?!
Outcast –Wouldn't be Misery if he was anybody else.
Blaze Fair enough. Seriously, though, any thoughts on the city?
Outcast Extremely normal.
Blaze Intel might be faulty, then? There's at least thirty, forty-ish cities in Victoria at that scale–
Outcast No matter how bright the Londinium sun shines, there'll always be places its light can't reach.
Outcast You've seen the files. You should know County Hillock doesn't have any noble at the reins. Two counts showed interest in the city, but never saw it through.
Blaze Err... because it won't make any money?
Outcast Yeah, or because of how ordinary it is.
But the more normal a place looks, the better it is to hide in plain sight. No matter when Rhodes Island decides to get moving, this is a good opportunity to scout the way ahead.
Blaze Gotcha. Just call me if you need support. I only just geared up to head for Connor County. I'm still close by for now.
Outcast Resettling Infected's not easy work. I'm on basic chore duty compared to your mission, probably down at the branch office drinking tea more than half the time.
Blaze Gimme a break. With a storm like this coming, is a Sankta like you gonna be happy chilling with a cup of tea?!
Outcast Ugh. You know, I'd love to live it up like a retiree.
Blaze Wonder why I'm not convinced...
Whatever, let's just all get our jobs done and head home soon as we can. Unrelated, Outcast, but I remember a bunch of green Sankta Operators waiting for you to hold marksmanship classes?
Outcast Relax, they need some free study time every now and then too.
Blaze Also, and I know it goes without saying, but Misery won't get off my back about it–
Be careful, Outcast. Hope it all goes smooth.
[Blaze hangs up.]
Outcast Smooth?
Hahah, sorry, kiddo, but that's not me.
<Background 2>
6:50 A.M. \ Overcast
Interrogation Room, County Hillock of Victoria Barracks, outside corridor
Bagpipe Leader, it's so stuffy in here. There's no ventilation or nothin'.
Horn You said the same during the Stockton serial bombing interrogation last year.
Bagpipe I'm not gonna be used to it, no matter how many times. You might call Cello instead. With her bein' over two meters, she could scare 'em into behavin' a bit.
Horn You punching a clean hole through a steel table frightens suspects just as much.
Bagpipe Aha, haha... I lost my head for a bit there. He took two children, and then he sat there bein' so sarky about their family. Didn't that steam you as well?
Horn Was I steamed?
Bagpipe You left finger marks in his imprisonment device with how hard you squeezed round his neck. He pissed himself straight on the spot with the shock you gave him, spat his co-conspirator's name and the bomb coordinates right out, all shiverin'.
That was mostly your credit, wasn't it?
Horn It was a necessary means of interrogation.
Bagpipe Oh, I've never been good with those means. I passed basic interrogation theory by the skin of my teeth. Always copied my friends' homework, as well.
Horn Then you're in luck. Our principal role today is sitting on the side, listening.
Bagpipe And thank goodness! Actually, um, it's almost time, isn't it? Why's nobody come to bring us in? Didn't that captain tell us it was goin' from 7 o'clock on?
Horn It's still four minutes to.
[Horn is walking to a nearby Victorian soldier and asks him something.]
Horn Excuse me, is Captain Kelly present? We're scheduled to meet him here.
Victorian Soldier I'm not sure.
Horn Is there an interrogation set for seven?
Victorian Soldier I don't know.
Horn Yesterday afternoon, we had a man suspected of smuggling illegal Originium goods. Do you know where he's being kept?
Victorian Soldier I don't know.
Bagpipe That's three strikes...
Horn ......
Well, it wouldn't surprise me if County Hillock keeps slightly different time to Londinium.
Bagpipe Eh, is that a thing?
Horn Seems at least to Captain Kelly it is.
Bagpipe Haha!
Horn I suppose we'll just have to do as the locals do.
<Background fades out and in>
Bagpipe ......
It's ten minutes past now.
Horn Checking the time over and over won't bring our colleagues here any faster.
Perfect, in a way. I need to talk with you about that false alarm of a battle yesterday.
Bagpipe Huh? Leader...
Horn You aren't getting one past me. I'm asking you, when I gave the order to withdraw, why did you jump at that crate instead?
Bagpipe Weren't you yellin' for the others to withdraw?
Horn ......
Bagpipe Before we entered the warehouse, you ordered me to make sure to catch the suspect alive.
Horn That was the initial order.
Bagpipe But orders are orders, right?
We all thought the suspect set off a bomb, didn't we? I judged that I was the only one with a chance to complete the mission.
If I could block the blast wave, I could keep the suspect alive, and you'd all be safe and sound too.
Of course, I had no qualms about your shield, Leader... remember that time you saved me, under all that artillery fire? From the Sargon mercs? 'Cause I'll never forget that.
Horn That's... not what I'm talking about.
If, and I'm only supposing, there really was a bomb inside that crate, you would've taken grave harm. Possibly even thrown away your life.
Bagpipe Eh? No way. There weren't any explosives that high-spec in the stolen goods. Even if someone modified 'em secretly, the force wouldn't be any harder than the Fortcracker shells we use in combat exercises, y'know?
Heheh, I can take those.
Horn Don't be overly reliant on Vouivran constitution in combat. How many times have I told you that?
Bagpipe Er... five?
Horn Ten at minimum, by my memory. And I can't imagine Slim didn't teach you that too.
Bagpipe Might've... taught me that? Ha, haha...
Horn Your smile-beaming has no effect on me. I'm your leader. I'm responsible for the safety of everyone under me.
Bagpipe I'm sorry, Leader...
Horn You know what's coming after we return, don't you?
Bagpipe You can have me run laps, no problem... but I'd hate to go without supper.
Horn ......
There's times I have no idea how I should handle you, Bagpipe. You're the most outstanding soldier under my command. Your obstinance goes right along with your combat skills... constantly exceeding expectations.
Bagpipe Well, it's got to be that way! My mum told me when I was little, "Vouivre women must see things through to the end!"
Not even a hurricane means much of anythin'. If you can't harvest all the wheat before it bogs down, your precious grains'll go all moldy!
Horn I... was not singing your praises.
Forget it. No matter how much I scowl at you...
It'll be a miracle if it reforms you any.
Bagpipe Believe me, Leader, you've got a face far from scary... I've seen plenty enough of the sort with eyes all bright, tellin' people all sinister things with all the worst language Victoria has to offer!
Horn Enough. Meaningless platitudes like this won't affect a qualified Victorian serviceman.
<Background black>
[Cpt. Kelly is talking with someone.]
Captain Kelly You mean to say...?
This... does it have to be this way?
Damian... no, I mean Barry. He was a good'un ever since he was young. I can guarantee, he simply took a wrong turn...
[Cpt. Kelly pauses for a moment, before...]
Captain Kelly You're absolutely right.
My apologies. Yes, I will follow orders.
Yes, those Londiniers are still here...
Understood. I'll pass down the instruction, sir.
My assurances. I never forget, I am first and foremost... a Victorian soldier.
<Background 2>
Bagpipe Ugh, Leader, you're checkin' the clock again.
Horn I'm not like you. I can't go blank anywhere, anytime.
Bagpipe Honestly speakin', I've had that Feline from the warehouse on my mind. I still properly like the song he sang.
I imagined a bit, dunno why. That song would be lovely for singin' alongside tractorin'.
"The hibernatin' mountains carry livestock herds~"
Victorian Soldier ......
[Bagpipe notices the soldier watching her.]
Bagpipe He's starin' at me. Was I singin' out of tune?
Horn You remembered the words wrong.
Bagpipe Oh! Wasn't it livestock? Was it buildin's, then? Or tillers?
You, Hillock pal over there, do you know what this song's words are meant to be?
Victorian Soldier You shouldn't be singing in here.
Bagpipe Sorry. Did I violate any of your rules?
Victorian Soldier At the very least, don't go singing that bunch's songs in front of us.
Bagpipe That bunch? What bunch? I don't get what you're sayin'.
Victorian Soldier Are you fiddling with me, Vouivre?
Bagpipe Huh? What's got you angry now?
Horn ...Bagpipe.
Bagpipe Can't shake the feelin' somethin's off-kilter.
Horn You can save it for later.
Bagpipe Uh, I'm not talkin' about... Leader, I think I just heard someone in there singin' as well!
Horn ......
You're right.
A matching tune comes from the depths of the dimmed corridor, of a deeper tone, rougher, broken off by a few fierce coughs from time to time.
Bagpipe You think the man's in there?
Victorian Soldier Hey, you're not allowed in!
[A young man walks in, whom Bagpipe recognized to be similar with the one before.]
Bagpipe Oi! A–Are you the one we caught yesterday in the outskirt warehouse?
Feeble Youth *cough* *cough*... *pant*... D'you mean Damian? Poor Damian... got dragged off ages ago...
Bagpipe Eh?! When?! How'd we not hear?!
Horn ......
Where did he get taken to?
Feeble Youth Where... ha, haha... you're asking where...
He's already... already...
[A soldier bashes the young man to silence him.]
Victorian Soldier Shut up!
Or would you like to go the same way he went?!
Bagpipe You're threatenin' him. Why? Where in the world did that man yesterday go to?
Feeble Youth Ah... ha... went home.
Bagpipe Went... home?
He got let go? So he had nothin' to do with the spectre force at all? Leader–
Horn Let me in...
Victorian Soldier You aren't allowed to converse with the prisoner without permission.
I want to see Captain Kelly. Step aside, soldier. I know he's in here.
[Hill, Cpt. Kelly's adjutant, appears.]
Adjutant Hill He is not.
Bagpipe You? You were the adjutant at the warehouse with the vile mouth, I remember you. What's your idea here?
Adjutant Hill The Captain left on urgent business. He asked me to pass this on to you–the interrogation ended one hour ago.
Bagpipe Gah...! So you mean, you went and gave us the wrong time?!
Adjutant Hill A lapse in communication. Not uncommon at all, is it?
Bagpipe What bloody lapse in communication... do you think we're idiots?
Leader, they gave us false info, led us up the garden path!
Horn That's not the key point.
I'm asking you, soldier. Why did you show up to tell us this information now? Since you've bided so much time, surely none of you will mind us wasting even more.
Adjutant Hill In regards to your question...
[A soldier approaches Hill and whispered something to him.]
Victorian Soldier (Muttered report)
Adjutant Hill Thank you, acknowledged.
[The soldier leaves as Hill continues.]
Adjutant Hill Lieutenant Skamandros, the order I received was to inform you of the following–
Convict Damian Barry, your individual of utmost concern–was, ten minutes ago, in an attempt en route to seize weaponry from his escort and assault military personnel, shot dead.
[Bagpipe is surprised to hear that the young man from before named Damian Barry is dead.]
Bagpipe What... what bloody nonsense are you feeding us?
We've seen that lad, he's just a normal man! He was frightened stiff when he saw us! How would he go attackin' a fully-armed regular by himself?
Horn That is to say... you summarily executed the suspect without trial.
Adjutant Hill I have relayed to you the facts.
[Hill leaves.]
<Background fades out and in>
Bagpipe Leader, we've been put in the dark. Why wouldn't they let us have access to the suspect? Aren't we stood on the same side?
Horn I'm still unclear about their reasons right now.
The one thing I can be sure of is, if we want to continue investigating, we've only got ourselves to depend on. The attitude the barracks have is loud and clear–they won't be of any help to us whatsoever.
Bagpipe Ugh. I'm not daft, either. I can see they've got a mean habit for trippin' people up.
So what do we do next? We scarcely got a lead, and it's gone again.
Horn We need to think of some other way.
Bagpipe Oh, yeah! I just thought. That man called Damian, he said his work was sortin' the potatoes.
Every outer agriculture plate in a nomadic city has its own channel for transportin' crops inwards!
We should be able to find the farmworkers' settlement by followin' along. If we can have a chat with his friends or kin, we might find our lead again.
Horn It's a very "you" train of thought.
Bagpipe Then you just leave the information enquirin' to me!
Horn Excellent. We begin immediately.
Bagpipe Leader, are you gonna come with?
Horn I'll stay to negotiate with the barracks. To my mind, they wouldn't slop out an execution without going through interrogation. As long as they held one, there'll be records left behind.
[Horn receives an incoming call from Triangle...]
Horn Triangle?
[...and answers it.]
Triangle Leader, we were in the outskirts–
[Gunfire are heard over the radio, much to Horn's surprise.]
Horn You got ambushed?!
Triangle They came out of nowhere, and I got rumbled...
[Shots and Arts attacks are heard over the radio.]
Triangle This lot's combat techniques and weaponry, they're a full match with previous intel... even Snare's Arts can barely hit them! Damn it!
[More fighting are heard over the radio.]
Horn Remember, your main duty is to come back alive!
Triangle Acknowledged, Leader! We should be fine! Triangle, out–
[Triangle signs off.]
This is major intel. Our target, the force they call spectre-like, is in County Hillock this very moment.